By Lorraine Anderson
Impossible. He couldn't be gone. He was an institution. He was a rock - a slightly gun-happy rock, but a rock, nonetheless. And such a senseless accident. He fell and hit his head. Granted, he was getting a little old, but.
Pam leaned over and held his arm as they watched the coffin being lowered into the grave. Her hand squeezed him, almost painfully. He looked over at her and kissed her head. There was a little grey in her raven hair that her hair dye had missed. He kissed her again.
Yes, they were all getting older. He couldn't run as far and as fast as he used to - without the super suit, he modified - but he was still in pretty good shape. Of course, Bill was in good shape for the age he was, and look what happened to him.
The coffin hit bottom with a small thud, and Ralph flinched. He stood up, wiping a tear away, and looked around at the small crowd. At the end, Bill had mellowed slightly and made a few friends, even if they were all gun nuts. Ralph smiled slightly at his final arrangements, which specified that he wanted to be buried with a loaded gun. After nobody could tell him how a loaded gun would last in a sealed coffin, Ralph modified it to an empty rifle, and he hoped that this would be all right.
Pam, balancing the flag that the soldier had given her, threw a lilac into the grave. After a second, Ralph followed suit. They walked away, their child, Kate, and her husband and children following them. Ralph wished his son could have been there, but Kevin hadn't been able to get away from work and his family. Giving Kate a hug, the two families separated to got to their own cars. "Meet you back at the church?" Kate said.
Ralph smiled. "Be right there."
Villicana walked up to them, dressed in a designer suit. Even Bill had to admit that the deadbeat kid had turned out all right, president of his own three shop car dealership. In fact, Bill had bought his last car from Villicana. Used, of course. He had never gotten used to a new car after so many years working with the FBI.
"Hey, teach - Ralph." Villicana said. "You all right?"
Ralph smiled slightly and nodded. "I will be. I guess we were lucky to have him as long as we did, right?"
Villicana chuckled. "Yeah. I mean, I know what his opinion of me was, but when I was in trouble, he pulled my nu..." he looked at Pam. "He really helped me."
"He was a bit proud of you, I think," Pam said. "He never understood why you went into the car business, instead of law enforcement, but..." she sighed... "that's... that was Bill."
"See you at the church," Ralph interjected.
Pam and Ralph got into their car and closed the door. Ralph sat for a second. "I still can't believe it."
Pam looked at him. "I know."
"I keep expecting him to walk into our house and make a smart remark."
Ralph sighed and reached for the key.
It turned by itself.
The radio came on. "Please... do... not... be alarmed..."
The car took off by itself. "Ralph?" Pam said.
"You must be kidding. Now?" Ralph said. "Why?"
"All... will... be... explained," the radio said.
Ralph cocked an eyebrow at the radio. "That's more than we usually got," he said. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed. "At least we have these now," he said to Pam, before the connection was made. "Kate? Yeah, we're fine... you saw that? I'll try to explain later... Look, we're not going to make the luncheon. Talk to Villicana and make an excuse for us. Tell them... we weren't feeling well or something. Want to talk to your mother?"
Pam gasped as the car barely missed rear-ending a truck. She grabbed the phone, and talked into it, pale, but her voice was calm. "Yeah, honey, we'll be fine... no, I don't know when we'll see you, but I'll talk to you when we know something, ok? Love you, too. Bye."
Ralph had a sinking feeling in his stomach, but he looked over at Pam. "Better grab a nap, honey. It's going to be a long ride."
It was night. Ralph woke up with a start and realized that the car wasn't moving. He reached over and shook Pam's shoulder. "Honey, we're here." He opened the door, got out, walked around the car and offered Pam a hand out. "He won't hurt us."
"Are you sure?"
"I'd like to think so."
"Not reassuring, Ralph. Not at all." But she took his hand and got out of the car, and let him lead her some way from the car.
A bright light surrounded them, and suddenly they were in a lighted room. The little green alien was in front of them. Ralph nodded. "It's been a long time."
"Yes." He gestured to the wall. A window turned transparent. Bill Maxwell was lying in state behind it, still with his gun. "His body has been taken care of."
Ralph nodded. "I wondered if you would. You took it from the coffin?"
The alien inclined his head. "I hope he can be revived him someday. In the meantime, he is in stasis."
"I don't," Pam said. "Bill would not have wanted this."
"He may be revived someday," the alien repeated.
"Pam." Ralph said.
She looked at him and dropped silent.
He gestured again, and the window went translucent again. "I did not bring you here just for that," he said. "I'm sorry, but I have another job for you."
"Oh, no, no," Pam said. "Ralph, you can't. You gave up the suit."
"I do not mean for Mr. Hinkley to wear the suit," the alien said. "His time for the suit is past. He fights in other ways now."
Ralph smiled and thought of his involvement in various recycling and save the earth groups. "Yes."
"But I do need you to introduce the suit to another wearer."
Ralph blinked. "You want me to take Bill's role?"
Sheriff Jack Carter looked through the window and stared at the man sitting in Allyson's office. "You say that this guy suddenly appeared in Section Five," he said to Allyson.
"According to the security cameras, there was a flash of light and he appeared, carrying a box we can't open." She looked at the man sitting quietly before her desk. The box was laid casually on his lap.
"One of your experiments?"
Allyson looked at him, chewing her lip.
"There are some experiments with matter transportation, but we're only in the molecular stage."
"And he's a lot bigger than a molecule." He cocked his head. "Well, he looks normal enough." He looked at the box. "Odd looking box. What did he say it contains?"
"He hasn't. He says he's a retired teacher from Los Angeles, name of Ralph Hinkley. We looked him up, and there is a Ralph Hinkley from LA, but we were hoping you could confirm that with your sources."
"And what's his excuse for just transporting in?" He sighed. "I can't believe I just said that."
"He says that an alien wanted him to talk to us."
"An alien? Right. Who else would beam a retired LA schoolteacher into Global Dynamics?" He rolled his eyes.
"Actually, to one person in particular." He saw a troubled look in her eye.
"I hate to ask this, but I'll bite. Who?"
"Fargo." She leaned forward and stared more attentively at him. "When we asked how he knew Fargo, he said he didn't. The alien knew him."
Carter barked a laugh. "Now that, I believe." He looked at him. "I'll go in and talk to him. Do you have his ID?"
"Gave that to us the first thing. He also claimed he had clearance from the FBI. Worked as a consultant with a Bill Maxwell."
"Did you check that out?"
"Working on it. Your sources?"
"I'll ask." He shook his head. "Actually, the name does sound familiar." He looked at the teacher again. "Ok." He opened the door and walked in. "Mr. Hinkley, I'm Jack Carter, the town sheriff."
Mr. Hinkley stood up and extended his hand and smiled. "It's nice to meet you, Sheriff. I'm sorry it's under some strange circumstances."
"Ah, yes." Carter smiled back, but didn't take the other man's hand. His smile faded slightly. "I understand you... beamed in, so to speak,"
"I didn't realize that the alien would do that," Hinkley said, his hand dropping. "Or could do that. He's always done that in the middle of the desert before. I assumed-"
"He has no respect for secure facilities?"
Hinkley grimaced. "I suspect not." He sighed. "I don't know too much about him, in spite of knowing about him for thirty years."
Carter looked up at Allison. "Thirty years? Did the U.S. Government know about this?"
Ralph looked at the both of them. "Technically, a representative of the Government did know about it," he said sadly. "but Bill passed away on Monday."
"And this is Thursday."
"We were just leaving his funeral when..."
"My wife and I."
"And where is your wife?"
"The alien said he would beam her down to our car." He looked at his watch. "She would still driving back from the desert. She probably has her cell phone on, if you want to call her."
Carter shook his head. "Maybe later." He looked hard at Ralph, who looked steadily back.
"I've been glared at by Bill Maxwell for thirty years," Hinkley said. "He didn't believe in little green aliens, either, until he saw them with his own eyes."
"And Bill Maxwell died how?"
Ralph gulped. "He fell down and hit his head." He looked down. "Ironic, after all we've been through."
Carter looked at him, puzzled. "You're a teacher. What would you have been through with a FBI agent?"
Hinkley chewed his lip. "May I have the box?"
Carter looked at Allison. "Have you investigated that box?"
Allison nodded her head. "Nothing we have can penetrate it. We tried to take a sample from it and it's harder than diamond."
Carter opened his eyes wide.
"It's even harder than anything we have here." She went on.
He did a double-take. "And what do you have here that's harder than..." He shook his head. "I don't wanna know." He looked at Hinkley, made a decision, then motioned him to open the box.
Hinkley looked at it a second, then up at Carter. Sadly, he opened it. Carter winced, and when the box didn't explode, leaned in to look inside. "Clothing?" he said. "You beamed in to deliver - clothing?"
HInkley looked up at him. With a reminiscent look, he pulled the clothing out. The first item was a shirt, with something attached.
"Is that a cape?!" Carter said.
Hinkley pulled out a pair of pants, then a pair of boots. "I never did figure out how they fit into that tiny box. I've wondered whether the little green alien knew Dr. Who." He laid the clothing out on the table.
"Who's Dr. Who?" Carter said.
Allison looked amused. "I'll explain later."
Carter nodded. "That looks," Carter said, amazed, "like a costume." He turned to Hinkley. "You beamed in to deliver a costume?"
"It's more than a costume." He smiled reflectively, then wryly. "You'll find this hard to believe, but it's a super suit. I was told to deliver it to someone named Fargo."
Carter drew back reflexively. "Fargo? You have to be kidding." He stared at Hinkley.
"Is there a problem?"
"I would say there's a problem. You want to deliver this to 'do not push that button' Fargo?"
Hinkley looked around. "That's what I was told."
"He's a one man disaster area!"
Hinkley looked at him earnestly. "But he's the only one who can make the suit work."
Carter pulled in a breath and held it. "Allison, could we talk a minute?" He turned to Hinkley. "Excuse us."
Hinkley snorted. "Of course. I wouldn't believe me either." He snapped his fingers. "I just remembered. "Pam took some movies. We rented a camera and took some pictures of me landing and taking off and doing other stuff. We had it transferred to videotape a few years back, then to DVD last year."
"And the developer didn't question it?" Allison said.
"We live in LA, the land of make-believe. All the guy said was that he couldn't see any wires. Anyway, I can have Pam copy the DVD and send it to here." He looked around. "Wherever here is."
Carter pulled Allison out of the room. "Do you believe him?" he said, after the door closed.
She looked at the door. "I believe he believes it," she said. She looked back at Carter. "I reserve judgment about the super suit. But," she held up her hand. "That box has us all puzzled. All of the experts tried to open it, and you saw how it opened to his touch."
"I'll send for a copy of that DVD - maybe we should get the wife up here," he said.
"I'll make the arrangements," Allison said.
"In the meantime," he said. "Keep that guy away from Fargo." He rubbed the back of his head. "If that really is a super suit -"
"Point taken." She started to look alarmed, herself.
"You do realize," Pam said to the man in front of her in another secure room at Global Dynamics, "that I am a lawyer and I could object to unlawful detainment."
"Oh, come on," Carter said. "You want your husband back and we want to get to the bottom of this mystery. It's in your best interest to cooperate."
Pam smiled. "And I repeat - I'm a lawyer."
Carter rolled his eyes. "You don't believe in cooperation. I get it. I hope you brought the DVD."
"I did," Pam reached into her purse and pulled it out. "Although why you want to see some amateur filmmaking is beyond me."
Carter sat down in front of her. "Mrs. Hinkley, reliable witnesses saw your husband appear in a room in a flash of light, including the security camera. He was carrying a box which had a strange symbol on it. He made some rather incredible claims, and said that this film would verify it." He looked earnestly into her eyes.
"I see. It's about the super suit." She looked at him steadily, and he reflected that once again, he was with a woman who was much smarter than he was.
"Yes," he said. "So I understand. Come with me."
He led her to a room. Hinkley stood up. "Pam. I'm sorry you were dragged into this."
"Ralph," she said. "When I married you, I married that suit, too. I'm just glad the past few years have been..." She looked around. "Quiet. Perhaps, now that Bill's gone, we can put this behind us once and for all..."
The room shook.
Pam Hinkley, who had been walking across to Ralph, was shifted sideways, against Carter. He grabbed her rapidly, set her upright, then looked to Allison, who was already on her phone. "Explosion in Section 5."
"How did I know?" muttered Carter under his breath. "Any casualties?"
"Part of a corridor has collapsed. No one is hurt, yet, but it's threatening. They can't get out."
"Who's in there?"
"Dr. Jacobson, Dr. MacKinnon-" she looked up. "And Fargo."
The Hinkleys looked at the suit. "Do you suppose?" Pam said.
"I have to try." He started to pull off his pants, looked at the window, then moved behind Allison's desk. "Much easier when I was younger," he muttered.
Carter turned around. "Hey, hey, what in the hell..."
Ralph continued to strip. "You wanted to see a demonstration? Well, I hope this works." He pulled on the red slacks, then slipped into the shirt. He looked up at Pam. "I think this is going to work." He picked up a chair and split it in half. He winced. "Sorry. I'll pay for that." He looked at Carter's amazed look, then looked at Allison. "Where's Section 5?"
Allison looked him up and down, then at the chair, then back at him. Hinkley turned red. "Trust me, I know it looks silly. It looked better thirty years ago."
"Do their security level go that high?" Carter said.
"I don't see that we have a choice," Allison said.
"Yes, you do," Carter said.
Allison shook her head. "Getting heavy machinery down there will take way too long. All reports say that it's not steady. Our anti gravity machines can't pick up any more than 1000 pounds yet." She shrugged. "Besides, it can't hurt." She looked at Ralph and Pam. "Do I have your word that you won't sue us if something happens?"
"Of course," Ralph said.
Pam sighed. "I suppose. You know that verbal agreements won't hold up…"
Allison sighed. "I know. Besides, I want to see if this suit holds up to this. Come on. Paperwork later."
She led everybody down the hall and to the elevator. People passing by stared at Ralph. "Ralph," Pam said. "Do you remember how to turn invisible?"
"Oh. Yeah." He lowered his head. Suddenly he was gone.
"I'm still here," said a disembodied voice. "Let's go."
They got into the elevator, and Ralph became visible. Carter blinked. "Are you sure this isn't one of our inventions?" he said to Allison. "Because that's creepy in a Eureka sort of way."
Allison shook her head. "There's some amazing work being done with fabrics here, but nothing that makes a person super-strong."
"We have only his word..."
"Trust me," Ralph said. "I'm a 58-year-old retired teacher. I don't body build." He looked down. "Does it look like I body build?"
The elevator door opened. "This way," Allison said, then she stopped short as she turned a corner and swore. The ceiling had collapsed, and girders were lying in the hallway, blocking to the end. "I expected this, but seeing it –" She pointed. "The lab is about ten feet that way."
Ralph looked at it. "Where can I clear the junk?"
"We have an open space back here." Allison said, looking puzzled. She opened the door to a huge, empty space. "We're not using this right now."
"Be careful, Ralph," Pam said. "You haven't done this in a long time."
"I will," Ralph smiled. "Please, back up over there. I don't want anybody to be hurt."
As they backed up, Ralph started moving in super speed. In about three minutes, a pile about 20 feet wide was on the floor. They hurt shouts. "Fargo, doctors," Allison called. "Stay where you are!"
"That's an order."
"You think that's going to work?" Carter said.
"Fargo, you move out of that lab and I'll arrest you for 50 years," he yelled.
Ralph stopped and looked at the pile. He then picked up a couple of steel beams and took them back. In an instant, he was back. He was sweating and a little pale.
"Ralph! Are you all right?"
"Just a little winded," Ralph said. He sat down. "That was a job for a young man."
Allison knelt down and looked at him. "We'll check you out upstairs. Anything hurt?"
"Still, just a preventative measure."
"I'm fine," he said. He got up. "Let's go meet Fargo."
Allison led them down the hall tentatively. Carter looked up. The beams looked as if they were fused to other beams. "You do that?"
Ralph nodded. "Actually, the suit did it. I just made it move."
Carter looked up and made a non-committal noise. "Impressive. And still creepy."
"Bill thought so," Pam said.
"And your partner was a FBI guy," Carter said.
"We just buried him," Ralph looked blank for a moment. "Yesterday, wasn't it?"
"Yeah," Pam said. She looked sad, and Ralph gave her a light squeeze.
They walked into the lab. "Fargo, what happened?" Allison said resignedly.
A skinny young man with dark glasses started spouting a long technical explanation that Carter tuned out.. Ralph turned to Carter. "That's Fargo?"
"Um. Yeah." Carter said. "Are you sure you want him?"
"That's what the green guy said," Pam said. She looked blank. "The alien, I mean. I've been around Bill too much." A tear came to her eye, then she looked at Fargo. "Hm."
Fargo stopped looking at Allison and wound down. "Who is he?"
"This," Allison said. "Is the man who saved..."
"Your sorry butt," Carter continued. "And he's brought a gift for you."
Fargo's eyebrows drew together. "What?"
"This," Ralph said, pulling out a pinch of fabric.
"A costume? But I already have my costume for Halloween," Fargo said.
Ralph started smiling.
"This is totally cool!" Fargo said, swooping overhead in the red suit. He disappeared into the forest, then came back
"Of all the people you could have given that suit to," Carter groused, "you gave it to a dweeb who dreams about being the six-million dollar man."
Ralph smiled broadly. "I suppose I was much the same at that age," he said. "I dreamed about being the Lone Ranger."
"And now?" Carter said.
Ralph shrugged. "I'm active in different ways. But when I go home at night, I want to see my wife and talk to my kids and grandkids. The suit protected me from many things, but not everything."
Carter heard a clunk and winced. "I don't want to look."
Ralph winced, too. "Your car."
"Just a tiny dent."
Carter turned around. Fargo was picking himself up off the ground, shaking his head. The side of the car was caved in slightly. "Fargo!" Ralph called. "You need to put the cape over your head. Your head and your hands are protected somewhat, but they are still the weak spots."
"Why aren't there instructions?"
Carter raised his eyebrows.
"We lost them. Twice."
Carter grinned. "Really?" His grin faded. He was beginning to look pale again. "You all right?"
"Just thinking about Bill."
Fargo had gotten back up and was running at super-speed down the road. In a minute, he had passed them twice. "Bill Maxwell," Carter mused. "I remember now. I used to read about Bill Maxwell and his amazing successes..." He stared at Ralph. "Aw, crap. No kidding."
Ralph smiled sadly. "Yeah. He had another partner after me who wore the suit, but eventually, even Iron Bill had to retire. I was always surprised that he was allowed to keep the suit after his other partner quit." He did a double-take and stared at Carter. "You're more than a small town sheriff, aren't you?"
"I was a U.S. Marshall." He noticed that Ralph was rubbing his arm. "Are you all right?"
"I'm not really feeling so good," Ralph admitted.
"We're going back to Global Dynamics. Allison needs to check you over," Carter said, herding him toward the car. "Fargo! Meet us back at the lab!"
"Beat you there," Fargo said, and shot back towards town."
Ralph smiled, then winced.
Carter turned on the siren and headed towards town as Ralph bent over his stomach.
"Well," Allison said. "It was a good thing you were here."
"Surgery with no scalpels?" Pam said. "Why isn't this in wide practice?"
"It will be," Allison said. "In a few years and more testing."
"So that was in all of the papers that I signed, along with the non-disclosure agreement?" Ralph smiled up from the bed. "Official guinea pig?"
Allison looked seriously at him. "Mr. Hinkley, you were having a heart attack. If Carter hadn't brought you up here, I'm not sure what your life expectancy would have been. I suspect you would have joined your partner within weeks."
Pam paled. "Oh, Ralph." She turned to Allison. "And now?"
Ralph sat up. "I feel great."
Allison pushed him back down. "I'll have to ask that you stay around for a while."
Pam sighed. "I'll call the kids…" She pulled out her cell phone…
Suddenly, a bright light surrounded them. Ten feet away, Fargo stood, the cape dropping down. Carter yipped. Ralph sat up in his bed and around. "We're on the ship," he whispered.
"Be damned," Carter said. "It really is a little green alien."
"I brought you up here," he said with no preamble. "Because I am ready to die. I have lived almost two hundred of your years, and my body will break down soon. I cannot fix myself."
"But I am leaving the ship to your world, and, specifically, to your scientists in Eureka," he held up one finger. "If I have your promise you use my technology for conservation and peace."
Carter looked at Allison. Fargo looked at Allison. Ralph and Pam looked at each other, then at the alien. "You're dying?"
A look of regret came over the aliens face. "I am sorry. I thought I might live another four or five hundred years, but the toxins from my world..."
"I see," Ralph said. "Is there anything Eureka could do for him?" he asked Allison.
Allison looked pole-axed. "Um," she stuttered, and Carter knew that she was really shook up. "I don't know." She closed her eyes, and Carter could see her pulling herself together. It was like being offered a feast when you were hungry, then being asked to treat the cook. "Are you a doctor?"
Carter could almost see hope coming back into the alien's face. "No. Of course not. My race is gone. I am the last. But I do have files."
"Well, then," Allison said. "Before you leave us your legacy, let us see what we can do for you," she said crisply. "If we can fix Ralph..."
"It was something I could not heal," the alien said. He turned to Ralph. "I didn't wish to distress you. I didn't believe your doctors could heal you."
Ralph blinked. "You healed me from being shot by a bullet, but you couldn't heal heart congestion?"
The alien hung his head.
The alien looked at Pam. "I'm sorry. I did not realize."
"We'll just have to keep you hidden from a few people," Allison mused, then realized she was interrupting. "Excuse me."
"Like the General?" Carter said.
"Yes." Allison looked militant.
"I haven't been out of this ship," the alien said. "In many years." He looked wistful. "I would like…"
"Then," Allison said, "you shall be our guest and our teacher."
Ralph looked involuntarily at the walls. "They shall be preserved." the alien said.
Allison looked at Ralph. "The former partners..." He dropped silent.
"Bill and other who have died are in stasis in this ship," Pam said.
Allison's eyebrows rose. "I see."
Carter shivered and decided not to say the first thing he thought - "so you live in a mausoleum?"
Allison turned to the alien. "We shall be proud to host you and your ship and we will keep your secret." She turned to Fargo. "Right, Fargo?"
"Um. Right." Carter could see the hopes of fame dying from his eyes.
Allison spoke to the alien, then looked at Ralph and Pam. "Welcome to Eureka. No matter how long you stay."
"Why do I have the feeling my troubles are just starting?" Carter said.
Ralph held his front door open for Pam, then entered his house. He looked around and smiled. His daughter, Kate, was into scrapbooking, and apparently she had been doing some lately, because a framed scrapbook page was on the table. A large picture of Bill smiling – one of Ralph's favorites – was centered in a page filled with guns, FBI logos, and one large lilac.
"Oh, how sweet!" Pam said. She squeezed Ralph around his waist as they both gazed on the picture.
Ralph's eyes teared up, but he smiled broadly. He could hear Bill complaining about the flower, yet if he thought of any flower in association with Bill, it would be a lilac. He wasn't sure why.
"Damn, Bill. I think we're going to be all right," he said to the picture. "And maybe we'll see you again some day. Thanks to Eureka."
Pam smiled. "To Eureka," she said, lifting an imaginary glass.
"And to Bill." Ralph lifted his imaginary glass.
Bill smiled back.
In memory of Robert Culp